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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
1 Timothy 2:1-4 Part II
In the first chapter of Paul's first letter to Timothy, Paul talks about false teachers in a way that suggests they are one of the reasons that Paul is writing the letter.  In particular they don't understand the purpose of the Law [of Moses] and they indulge in the sort of empty religious speculation that doesn't help either themselves, or those they engage thus, draw nearer to Christ in their faith.

Paul reminds Timothy that his own understanding of the law came to him, not because he was a model Christian, for he was, by his own account, the worst sinner around.  Demonstrating, with himself as the model, that a sinner's sinfulness does not dictate whether or not a person can be saved.

So when Paul tells Timothy that he should pray for all people, including kings and rulers because God desires the salvation of all people, we understand that someone, somewhere (likely these false teachers, but not necessarily) was suggesting that these rulers were not worthy of salvation, and certainly not worthy of our prayers.  Paul's testimony is that as wicked as he was, God's grace found him, and if that was possible for Paul, it was possible for any sinner - even kings and rulers. 

In other words, what Paul intends to show is not that God wants everyone to be saved, but rather that God is no more against the salvation of wicked rulers and kings than God was against Saul of Tarsus - a wicked and arrogant wretch of a blasphemer, who was in fact persecuting Christ Himself when he persecuted Christ's church.

Since Paul says plainly that God desires all persons to be saved, many readers are inclined to look no further into the matter.  they conclude that God wants to see every single person that was ever, or will ever, be born, saved.  But others (myself included) conclude that Paul is consistently using the term (in the immediate context) to refer to groups of persons rather than individuals.  When he calls Timothy to pray for all persons, he means to include these two groups of persons: kings and rulers, why?  The reason is because God desires the salvation of even persons from within those groups.  He desire to save people from within any and every group.

Yet that may sound in some ears to be a little contrived.  I mean, yes, Paul is speaking specifically about the inclusion of two groups of people (kings and rulers), but that doesn't mean that Paul is necessarily using the phrase "all persons" in a way that means all kinds of people.  His point is just as valid if by "all persons" he means "every single person".

While it is true that the context allows us to interpret the thought as God desiring to save all kinds of people, and while similar usages of the word "all" readily permit this, I expect that most people are going to cling to one interpretation over the other because of what each interpretation implies.

If our all knowing, all powerful God wants to save every person, he not only has the power to do so, he knows how to do so in such a way as to overcome any possible objection to him doing so.  Do you understand what I mean when I say that?  Some people imagine that the only way God can cause a sinner to repent and come to faith is if God compromises the will of that person in some way.   In other words, some people do not believe that an all knowing and all powerful God is able to bring a person to repentance and faith apart from making that person into some kind of puppet.

The words "all knowing" and "all powerful", suggest to me that God is able to do all things, including causing people to repent and come to faith in such a way that their own wills are by no means compromised.  If God cannot do that, He isn't all knowing (He couldn't think of a way to do it), or He isn't all powerful (He isn't able to make it happen).  It seems to me that unless God is able to make one of His creatures come to repentance and faith without compromising that creature's "free" will, then God isn't God.

Anyone who defines God as being incapable of unerringly and irresistibly causing a sinner to turn away from his or her rebellion against God and to exercise saving faith in Christ in such a way so as not to compromise in any way the will of the individual, does not worship an all powerful, all knowing God - they do not worship the God of the scriptures. 

The truth is that the omnipotent, omniscient God of the the scriptures is able - more than able - to save every single person who was ever, or will ever, be born.  He could do so in such a way as to make every last one of us repent and believe, without any coercion, without offending the freedom of our will, etc. etc.  He is God - He can do that.

Before we go on, we should note that salvation isn't passive.  When we say that God desire for people to be saved, what we are saying is that God personally wants to save them.  It isn't that God desires people to "somehow get saved" it is that God wants to personally bring about their salvation, since He (in and through Christ) is the One who saves.   The notion that this desire can be disconnected from God "wanting to make it happen" is untenable.

So we are left with two choices in our interpretation:

[1] God wants to justify every single person, can justify every single person, but only justifies some people, contrary to both His will, and His ability.

[2] God wants to justify all kinds of people, can justify all kinds of people, and does justify all kinds of people.

Clearly the latter is the only rational choice.  God does not, and cannot fail in accomplishing everything He intends to do.  We might entertain the picture of God all weepy-eyed and broken hearted because He wants to save all of us, but is only saving some of us - but that picture is as ridiculous as it is blasphemous.  God is not a creature whose dreams and aspirations are dependent upon outside forces that work against and limit the opportunity of the creature, such that the creature fails to accomplish its own desires.  There is no power greater than God, nothing to thwart or hinder His desires - what God desires, God gets.  Period.  To believe otherwise, is to believe that there is something greater and more powerful than God.

There is plenty of room to show from the remainder of the scriptures that God is by no means trying to save every last person.  That God ordained the condemnation of Judas is proof enough of that.  I could well write a Part III on this topic that goes into that, but ultimately the reason opinions differ on this point is not because of what the scriptures say elsewhere, but rather because of what we presume about God. 

If God is omnipotent and omniscient, we cannot interpret Paul's writing here to mean that God desires the salvation of every single person, because that would mean that God wants to make something happen, has the power to make it happen, but is being thwarted by something that God's power and knowledge cannot overcome.

So while the text itself may be a little ambiguous, we know that it cannot mean that God wants to personally save every single person, and we know this because if God wanted to save every single person, He would.  People who think otherwise do so not because they haven't been exposed to the rest of the scriptures, but rather because they have an image of God that isn't all it should be.
posted by Daniel @ 8:54 AM  
  • At 6:48 AM, August 05, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is the most sensible and logical exposition of the passage I have ever read.

    This is one of the Scriptures that I have seen bandied about as a proof text for any position that holds itself against the Calvinist view.

  • At 8:49 AM, August 05, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    I think those who are opposed to God's sovereignty are more often than not well meaning, sincere folks who reject God's sovereignty in salvation because they don't really believe that it is just for God to save one unworthy sinner while letting another unworthy sinner receive the condemnation he or she deserves. They cannot accept that salvation is an act of God's grace, because they believe that if God shows grace to one, He obliges Himself to show the same grace to all. They are so sold out to this idea that they will only accept a version of God that does not save everyone but impotently wants to.

  • At 9:30 PM, August 13, 2013, Blogger donsands said…

    I have been arguing this with a FB friend, and he is so determined to push aside the truth of God's holy Word, so that God is love, and He loves all, and actually maybe all are in heaven, because we cannot judge anyone.
    There is so much of this today Daniel. Thanks for this post. I shall take it and share it with others who will be edified, and others who will hate it, if that's alight with you.

  • At 9:41 PM, August 13, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Share it as you will Don. Maybe The Lord will use it to further his kingdom.

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